The Beijing Grandmothers Inspiring Snow Xue Gao's Floral Creations

The Beijing Grandmothers Inspiring Snow Xue Gao's Floral Creations

by Ana Escalante

In a blank studio, thousands of miles away from the place where she grew up, young designer Snow Xue Gao remembers her grandparents. Her grandmother had a large peony garden, meticulously cultivating the flower since Snow spent childhood summers in Beijing. Peonies are representative of many things to the Chinese — national pride for starters, artistic integrity and royalty for some. To Snow, the flower was an example of the time and love her grandparents put into creating something together. No doubt, they're some of her largest inspirations.

As a result, her Spring collection focuses on peonies, displaying a blossoming "Flowers are Forever," presentation honoring her late grandmother and the elite arts within China's rich history. It's a celebration of life, she tells PAPER, explaining the mourning process for those who have died over 85-years-old in China. It's not a sad thing, Snow goes on to say, but rather, a reflection of the happy moments these people experienced throughout their lives.

"It's really nice how they left a lot of culture behind. Everything is an occasion, from holidays to someone's birthday. Dressing up formally is such a big part of who they were," Snow said. "I want people to see the joy and color they brought into my life, into my story, in these clothes. This is all about family."

Built on two distinct ethos, Snow Xue Gao is a conglomeration of feminine aesthetics and male tailoring — something so many other designers attempt, and subsequently fail to do nearly as well as Snow does it. Sharp, immaculate cuts on houndstooth blazers and suit shorts complement floral patterns in delicate colors on A-line mini-dresses and chiffon pussy-bow blouses. The combination of both elements leads to a surprisingly adaptable ready-to-wear collection, easy to throw on in tandem with platform sneakers and a tote bag to head to the office.

"When I graduated from school, I always felt like my work was very conceptual and I struggled with facing the whole industry and business side of things," she explained. "This season feels like a magnum opus resort, and I think in a few years, we'll come back to this and see how we built and expanded upon it from a commercial standpoint."

Presented in a large, sweeping room with a soft piano playing in the background, Snow's New York Fashion Week presentation was representative of the large support Asian fashion designers have been getting recently, building each other up through community and collaborations. Some of Snow's closest friends designed the jewelry, prints, and set of this collection. Friend and collaborator TengTeng created mini art frames and hand painted oil paintings on enamel brooches and earrings, adding another element of high art into the collection.

Photography: Xin Pan